Latest RFU Community Game Update

19 Sep 2020 12:31 | Devon RFU

Update on the Adult Male Future Competition Structure

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the many webinars and surveys we have been conducting on the future competition structure (English Club Championship Level 3 and below) over the last 12 months.

There has been positive momentum in the most recent survey conducted over the summer, as well as some areas of concern being highlighted that we will be looking at in more detail. As Covid-19 restrictions are still with us, and we are uncertain of the timing of the 20/21 season, we have taken the decision to move the Council vote on future competition structure to 27 November (with a decision also at that meeting around the timeframes for implementation). At that point we would hope to have more clarity on the 20/21 season, and the additional time will also allow us to review and consult further on elements of detail.

The key high level findings from the most recent survey conducted over the summer found there is:

• Strong support from players to the overall plan, with particular reference to the proposed reduction in league size supporting a better work-life balance, the minimisation of travel requirements, the introduction of league break weekends and an end of season national knockout/cup offer.
• Support from non-players to the overall plan, though not as strong as players, with some concern about reduction in league sizes and perceived effect this could have on club revenues.

The majority of people agree that we have a significant opportunity for rugby to develop in order to provide an optimal playing offer and structure that protects the future health of the adult male game while meeting the needs of current and future players. Players are looking for a balance of quality of experience, welfare needs and less travel. Meanwhile, we must also ensure we protect the sustainability of clubs.

Steve Grainger, RFU Rugby Development Director said: “We would like to thank everyone who has provided valuable input into the review process over the last year. We know from participation trends and data that players are playing less fixtures each season and are choosing to play fewer matches for a number of lifestyle reasons. Demands on players’ time through changing socio-economic factors is not the same as it was 20 years ago and our current playing offer puts pressure on players and clubs to fulfil fixtures, undermining the sustainability of the game. The increased number of players often required to sustain a first XV can also restrict clubs’ capacity to run additional sides – a concern for the long term health of our game.

“The most recent survey results are interesting and provide useful insights. Given the volume of input received, we will take more time to consider the proposals and how we can incorporate your valuable feedback as we want to ensure that the final decision made on the adult male competition structure serves the interests of all of our players and clubs and underpins our game for the future.”

You can read a more detailed summary of responses, separated by player and non-player feedback (non-player refers to coaching staff and club officials).

Change in registering for GMS support

From Thursday 1 October 2020, anyone who requires GMS support will need to go the new Help Portal and click on the Submit A Help Request option to register an issue as the email address of will be turned off on Wednesday 30 September. You can find more details on the RFU website.

Mental health support

UK Coaching is offering coaches a mental health workshop for free until Wednesday 30 September. This workshop will help give coaches the knowledge, skills and confidence to better understand and support people living with mental health problems, and create a positive environment to enjoy the benefits of being active and keep coming back for more. 

Mind, the mental health charity, is also hosting two webinars looking at safeguarding and managing risk for people experiencing mental health problems. The aim is to upskill sport and physical activity organisations and their workforce to better support and engage people with mental health problems in being active.

Mental health and safeguarding in sport and physical activity webinar
Date: Tuesday 29 September | 11:30am - 12:15pm
Book your place

Mental health at work in sport and physical activity webinar
Date: Wednesday 7 October | 11:30am - 12:15pm
Book your place

VAT Helpline

Clubs continue to make savings and benefit from free advice given on the VAT helpline. The first 30 minutes of advice is free to clubs, with any additional services provided at greatly reduced rates. Contact the helpline either by calling Russell Moore on 07710 329317 or by emailing your enquiry to

A couple of areas that clubs may wish to focus on and are recurring themes reported back by Russell are:

Fundraising event claims

Clubs that have made a claim for VAT previously over declared during the last four years on income generated at fundraising events are now receiving refunds from HMRC. Successful claims are in the order of £500k. This opportunity relates to events where the principal reason for staging the event was to raise funds for the club, and/or a charity and typically include events such as Bonfire Night, Burns Night, summer balls, VP events, Ladies Days, etc. Claims for under £10k can be made by a club itself on the current VAT return, with claims over £10k requiring a formal error disclosure being submitted to HMRC. Clubs are encouraged to take professional advice on this matter to ensure claims are correctly made.

VAT recovery on playing related costs-kit purchases

VAT regulations allow clubs to recover VAT incurred on costs that relate to exempt activities up to a maximum of £7,500 per year. Exempt activities are usually restricted to playing activities (as playing members pay a subscription that is exempt from VAT) and fundraising events.

However, not all playing costs should be treated as wholly attributable to exempt activity. Where kit is given to players and it displays a sponsor’s logo, the VAT incurred on the kit purchase by the club can be treated as partly relating to the exempt playing activity and partly to the taxable sponsorship income. This being so, the exempt element is invariably relatively low thus helping to keep the value of exempt input tax within the £7,500 annual limit. Many clubs mistakenly treat all VAT on kit purchases as wholly exempt expenditure.

Win a training day with Dylan Hartley & more

As the trusted healthcare partner to England Rugby, Simplyhealth has joined forces with us to promote health and wellbeing in sport, as well as everyday life.

We want to hear what your members do to get game ready, whether it’s a good session of active stretching or phoning a loved one to get that all-important confidence boost.

All your members need to do is fill in the form below to share their warm-up exercises and have the chance of winning a training session for your club with former England captain, Dylan Hartley.

In addition, from Thursday 17 September until Thursday 22 October, we will select entries to win a signed England Rugby ball or shirt.

Find Out More

Community rugby - current status

Although social gatherings of more than six people were banned in England from Monday 14 September, the Government has confirmed that organised sports and activities that have been through return to play protocols can continue. With the exception of clubs impacted by local lockdown restrictions, we continue at Stage D on the Return to Community Rugby Roadmap. The rugby community can continue to organise non-contact fixtures with other clubs using Ready4Rugby, and other touch rugby activity.

Limited and restricted contact rugby training can also be continued. Details of the permitted training activity are available in the return to contact training guidance link below.

We are working to see whether guidance on numbers permitted on training areas can be increased to reflect the age of participants. Until we have secured approval for this, clubs should follow current guidance of no more than 20 players per half pitch in training.

RFU guidance as well as Government Coronavirus (Covid-19) Guidelines must be followed.

Local lockdown restrictions

Clubs are reminded that the powers around local restrictions lie with their local authorities. We are advised that, unless local restrictions specifically mention restrictions on team sports and/or rugby, clubs should follow the NGB guidelines. Clubs may need to limit their activities in line with any local restrictions and all are advised to consult with the local authority in which their facilities are located should they be in any doubt. Information regarding any new local lockdown restrictions will be posted on the Government website below.

We will provide an update to the game in our weekly, Tuesday Covid-19 Community Game Updates if there is any change in guidance to playing rugby union.